Chapter 6 : Travel Security Secrets
Both my wife and I had a strong feeling we shouldn't get on
that bus in Cuenca, but neither of us said anything. A taxi was
two dollars, and the bus cost only twenty-five cents. Ana sat
down, but there was no room left for me, so I was packed in with
the other commuters standing up. Almost immediately I noticed
the drunk pushing his way through the crowd, randomly going this
way and that.
I knew something was up, and instinctively reached into my
pockets to check on my money. We had just visited the ATM that
morning, and the $170 cash in my pocket was the most we had carried
in one place during the entire trip. It was still there. The
old guy pushed against me like he was trying to find a place
to stand comfortably. I checked my pocket again.
A few minutes later some space opened up near Ana, and I went
over to her seat. I reached in my pocket again, and it was empty.
The other pocket was empty too. I hadn't felt a thing. The old
drunk was still on the bus. I looked over at him.
"We've been robbed," I told Ana. "All of it."
I grabbed the drunk, who was no longer acting drunk at all.
At the next stop we got off, dragging the thief with us. A
police officer appeared, and a crowd formed. The man was very
sober now, pulling out his pockets and insisting again and again
that he was innocent. He said we could search him if we wanted.
We wanted. I searched him, but I understood now that his associate
was long gone with the money, probably off the bus at a previous
Despite his begging, and the impossibility of getting the
money back, we had the officer take him to the police station
on his motorcycle while we followed in a taxi (Paying with a
twenty from under the sole of my shoe). We filed a complaint,
and he would spend the night in jail, then be released for a
lack of evidence in the morning. At least his finger prints were
on file now.
Travel Security Lessons
A money belt probably would have prevented the robbery. Pockets
that close help too, although I had a wallet stolen from a zippered
pocket once, and I didn't notice until forty minutes later. At
least it was a decoy-wallet, put there for just such an occasion.
My real wallet was safely hidden elsewhere (another little travel
Carry your money in at least three different places. These
can include; under the sole of your shoe, in a pocket that you
pin inside your clothes, in your shaving kit. Also carry two
credit or debit cards in two separate and secure places. Have
the "lost or stolen" phone numbers in another place.
Dress properly. If the area you're visiting has much crime,
leave expensive watches and jewelry behind.
Ask locals where it is safe. Of course, ask them where it
is unsafe too. People sometimes think that foreign cities are
dangerous because they just go anywhere in the city - something
they would never do in New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago.
There are many things you can do to travel more safely. Of
course, the biggest lesson of our experience was obvious. You
have to learn to trust your intuition.
When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and
all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.
- Susan Heller
Continue with Chapter 7 here: Wal-Mart
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